The French Translation
En meurette, eggs on toast never had it so good
LET ME ASK you a little riddle. Don't worry, it's short and involves wine.
Beef stew with red wine, bacon, onion and mushrooms is called boeuf à la bourguignonne (or just beef burgundy). Replace the beef with chicken and you have coq au vin. Now, what do you get if you replace the beef or chicken with poached eggs on toast?
The answer is oeufs en meurette, and I thought it sounded like a joke — until I tasted it. Now, I'll make any excuse to end up near Pike Place Market at lunch, or brunch, so I can pop into Cafe Campagne for a plate of eggs.
It would be impossible to improve on Cafe Campagne's oeufs: two poached eggs perched on triangular toasts (the bread is made in-house), islands in a sea of rich, silky red wine sauce. Instead of more bread to soak up the sauce, you get a basket of freshly made pommes frites. Are you still sitting there reading the newspaper?
I wanted more convenient access to oeufs en meurette, and I figured I had eggs, bread and red wine around the house. So I decided to look into a homemade version to tide me over. But there were two obstacles to this worthy goal.
First, Cafe Campagne's wine sauce is made with ingredients I tend not to have around the house, like demiglace and foie gras butter. (I am forever running out of foie gras butter, aren't you?) I asked Cafe Campagne chef Daisley Gordon how he would make oeufs en meurette sans demiglace and foie gras. "I probably wouldn't make it," he said.
Way to throw down the gauntlet, chef. He grudgingly allowed that you could use reduced chicken stock in the sauce and finish with plain butter.
Second, my egg-poaching skills were — how to put this in a family newspaper? — crummy. I have tried all the usual advice (use fresh eggs, add vinegar to the water, poach in a nonstick skillet) and still end up with shaggy beggar's purses.
I decided to deal with the second problem first, perhaps hoping someone would offer me a pound of foie gras butter while I was learning to poach eggs. I went through several dozen eggs and eventually settled on an old Julia Child trick: Cook the egg for half a minute in the shell, just to firm up the white slightly, then crack it into the water to finish poaching.
My poached eggs still aren't the perfect full moons you see at Cafe Campagne, but they don't look like dishrags anymore, either. A couple hundred eggs from now and I'll be a champ, although I think that's what Cool Hand Luke said, too.
For the demiglace, I turned to Demi-Glace Gold, a widely available brand. For the foie gras, I just gave up and finished the sauce with a large amount of regular butter.
When my fork slid through a silky poached egg and crispy crouton and I watched the yolk mingle with rich, dark sauce, I knew I'd brought oeufs en meurette home. OK, they're not as good as Cafe Campagne's. But here's a trick you can't get away with at the restaurant: The day after serving this dish to my family, I had plenty of bread and sauce left over but was too lazy to poach any more eggs.
So I made myself a snack of butter-toasted bread with red wine sauce — croutons en meurette, if you will.
Try it. I'll bet you've never put anything better on your toast.